Southeast seine fishermen have finished-up their record-breaking pink salmon harvest for the year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game earlier this week (9/8) announced that directed pink fishing was closed.
Weekly pink catches drop off fairly fast at the end of each season and this year was no exception according to the department’s Regional management coordinator Dan Gray.
“We look at those last few openers as kind of halving every opener as you move on. So when it went from nine million harvest, approximately, down to four to two to one and then I think the last one was about 400 thousand, we knew it was all but done and fishermen were done with it and the processors were done with it. So, we just kind of wrapped it up,” says Gray.
It will be a while before the department has all the data for a final count, but according to preliminary estimates, Gray says seiners landed 85.5 million pink salmon. Trollers and Gillnetters caught an estimated 2.4 million more for a total of 87.9 million.
“It is an all-time record. It beats 1999 and, yeah, it was the biggest one ever,”
Southeast commercial fishermen caught 77-point-eight million pinks in 1999.
Pink salmon escapement, the number of fish making it back to the streams to spawn, has been very good around the region this year, according to Gray. The lack of rain has been a concern for the department which has seen some localized pink salmon die-offs. However, as fall typically brings more rain, Gray is confident the big pink returns will make up for the losses.
“I still think there’s enough fish staging in the inter-tidal areas that are going to back-fill anything that’s killed at this point. There’s just a lot of pink salmon there. There were still reports in some areas when we closed that they were still catching bright fish.”
This year’s price for seine-caught pinks averaged around 40 cents a pound. The biggest catches were in Southern Southeast.